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The European eel. The larger female is called a capitone. Today these are on the IUCN Red List as a critically endangered species. Efforts are being made to raise them commercially.

That said, they are still fairly common in Sardinia, where they are often roasted on spits at festivals, and in some of the lakes, like Garda, where they are also called anguèla or bisàto. The Venetian doges especially relished them: like Henry I of England, Doge Andrea Gritti died of a surfeit of eels, in 1538.

Andrea Gritti, the eel eating Doge, by Titian.

The Sagra dell’Anguilla takes place in late May and early June in Cascina in Tuscany.

Two kinds of eel are recognized by the Ark of Taste:

Anguilla dei laghi della Tuscia: from Lazio's Lakes Bracciano and Bolsena, a favourite of Pope Martin IV—mentioned by Dante, who visited him in Purgatorio in the Divine Comedy.

Anguilla marinata tradizionale delle Valli di Comacchio: eels caught and marinated in the traditional style, from the Po Delta in Emilia Romagna.

Text © Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls

Images by: PD Art, Stefano Mortellaro